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Brown, social service advocates press for D.C. tax on rich

Council member Michael Brown (I-At large), backed by social service advocates, has launched a final push to try to convince his colleagues to raise taxes on the wealthy to preserve additional funding for human services.

On Thursday, a majority of the council appeared to signal during budget deliberations that they didn't want to raise taxes this year on residents who earn more than $200,000. But Brown and the advocates are mounting a last-minute campaign to rally support for their proposal before the council votes on the budget Wednesday.

Currently, all District wage-earners who make $40,000 or more pay an 8.5 percent income tax. Brown has proposed creating another bracket for residents who make $250,000 a year or more and another for people who earn at least $1 million annually.

Brown appears to have support from Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), according to Joni Podschun, campaign manager for Save Our Safety Net. Without a tax increase, Podschun and Brown note, the city will be slashing millions of dollars from programs for the homeless and poor.

Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, a Democratic candidate for mayor, has indicated he wants to avoid a tax increase this year. But the social service advocates are stepping up the pressure on Gray.

Jews United for Justice issued a statement Monday afternoon accusing Gray of failing to keep his word. In April, according to the group, Gray pledged at a Jews United for Justice Labor Seder to protect the city's social safety net.

"Now is the time for council member Gray to step up and show leadership," said Jacob Feinspan, executive director of Jews United for Justice. "This is his opportunity to make good on his promises to protect the most vulnerable in our community. Instead he is demanding more cuts to critical safety net programs while he hides in his office and refuses to return our phone calls."

In an interview, Gray said the council needs a "longer and more protracted" discussion about taxes and spending that he hopes will continue even after Wednesday's vote on the budget.

"We need a 365-day discussion," Gray said.

By Tim Craig  |  May 24, 2010; 5:27 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council , Tim Craig , Vincent C. Gray  
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I watched the committee as a whole budget hearings last week and it was interesting seeing our leaders in action. They appeared afraid to make the difficult decisions. It seems the only way to save the safety net is to make difficult decisions. Yes, tax those who can most afford it and yes add a tax to soft drinks. That one I can't understand!

Posted by: maehenrie | May 24, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

If I lived in the city and made that much, I'd simply move to Northern VA where taxes are much lower.

Posted by: NoVAredsox | May 24, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

It is shocking how sadly ignorant some of the people elected to positions really seem to be. If you tax the wealthy, they will move. But I am getting really sick of this hatred for those who do not sit on their cans and actually make a living working. Obama wants us to be just like Europe, broke and in debt.
I lost both my parents and grandmother within a one year period just before 9/11. I am so glad they are not alive to see these pathetic weak people we have elected to office who have spent us into oblivion in their selfish gluttonous ways, who go around apologizing for this great nation, and who ignore one crisis after another to benefit themselves politically.
The last things that should go in a community are those that benefit children. I say cut the salaries of the fat cats at the top and I bet you will find tons of waste. Let us start cutting those bureaucrat jobs and you are going to hear screaming like you have never heard before.

Posted by: greatgran1 | May 24, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Make these lazy slobs in DC who are on welfare work for their welfare checks. Have them clean the streets, sweep sidewalks, shovel snow, pick up trash, clean up playgrounds, help with the upkeep of school yards, etc. Maybe they will finally learn something about the value of hard work and money instead of sitting around drinking and hanging out on the street all day waiting for the first of the month until their check arrives.

I'm sick of busting my hump every day and when I drive to and from work I see perfectly healthy young men hanging on the streets doing nothing but my hard-earned tax money goes to the government so they can get a check every month for doing nothing.

Message to City Council: Cut the social programs in DC!!

Posted by: UrbanDweller | May 24, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Why not just tax every at 100%?? This way we'll never have to hear about this crap again! Can't these pathetic liberal losers in Washington manage money correctly FOR ONCE IN THEIR PATHETIC MONEY SPENDING LIVES??

I don't know about you but last I checked you didn't need a math degree to figure how to balance a budget. Come to think of it, I'd love a 65" Sony Plasma, BUT I AIN'T GOT THE MONEY!! Know what I do when I don't have the money in the budget to pay for something??

I DON'T BUY IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But here's the BIGGER problem. These politicians aren't dealing with their personal money!! You don't have to be a genius to spend other people's money!! So here's the fix. For every dollar these morons in Washington increase the deficit, they lose 1 penny in their personal bank accounts automatically.

Then you sit back and watch how fast these greedy bastards balance the budget!!

Posted by: emmitfitzhume | May 24, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Interestingly enough, it's been over a year since Jim Graham first introduced his "millionaire tax" measure to fund safety net programs.

To everyone that thinks the wealthy will move. Did we see a huge influx of millionaires when Maryland increased their rates? No. Their rates are now above what Michael Brown proposes. We're talking about an increase in taxes of around $200 for households at $300,000. That's less than the cost of a moving truck.

@emmitfitzhume In most cases the politicians themselves would be affected by the new tax brackets.

Posted by: jrp2 | May 25, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Vince Gray said it best: Vince Gray is just not going to be sincere when he's up for election.

Posted by: hungrypug | May 25, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Did anybody note that rather than make a decision and defend it, Gray wants a "365-day discussion"? Looks like a Gray administration would give you all the feel good talk you want but not too much in the action department.

Posted by: Art17 | May 25, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

As someone who lives and works in the District in a neighborhood that greatly needs and benefits from the city's safety net, I really fear for its loss if these tax changes are not made. There is a huge disparity between rich and poor in DC and they fact that someone who makes 40k and 200k per year pay the same tax rate is unbelievable. If you look at the proposed increases, it really is not a huge increase. Certainly not enough to make people flee the city. I would really encourage people to look at the SOS website: for more information.

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Posted by: wohenbena | May 25, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

DC could literally save hundreds of millions of dollars a year by reforming the existing social service programs they have.

Simple things, like break up some of the massive public housing complexes that cost us millions but produce huge amounts of crime, family breakdown, and social dysfunction, generation after generation.

And take the savings from that to use for the real struggling working poor, the disable, etc.

But they won't.

Instead they demand more taxes, with absolutely no public housing or other social service reform.

Just like they've done for forty years.

As for the SOS folks, why no disclosure as to who they are, how many stand to benefit from DC taxpayer money, what specific programs would be given money from this tax, etc?

And why absolutely no real reform programs being proposed?

Isn't forty years of this enough to determine that the status quo simply isn't working?

Posted by: Hillman1 | May 25, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Hillman1 how many public housing complexes are there left in D.C.?

Posted by: thelildiva4u | May 25, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

thelildiva4u, according to this data from DC gov:

there are 63 facilities designated as public housing in DC. You can see them on Google Earth via a link there as well. It doesn't indicate how big each facility is.

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | May 25, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Following my last, that number does not include group homes (ie DYRS juvenile offender facilities), nursing homes, or other such "special" places.

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | May 25, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

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